Many people think that by selling their homes on their own, without the help of a real estate agent, they’ll save the 6% or 7% agency commission when the closing is done. That’s right, technically. But before people decide to take on this task by themselves, they need to sit down and do some figuring and have a serious talk with the other family members so that everyone’s on the same page and knows what they should expect in the coming weeks.
The crucial thing to know is that there will be expenses involved in selling on one’s own. These expenses are as follows: signs and newspaper advertising, snacks and other amenities for open house showings, and promotional materials like printouts and flyers to put into boxes on “For Sale” signs in the front yard.
To get exposure to the greatest number of people, it’s necessary to do some general advertising through very professional-looking flyers in full color. These flyers are the type that you see in boxes attached to yard signs. More and more these are necessary to screen people who want some price and amenities facts without having to call you and ask over the phone. It saves both the seller and the potential buyers a lot of time. And there needs to be enough of them to replenish the box when it runs out. And it will run out, believe me. I’d say that about 750-1250 flyers are not at all too many. Now, if you have good computer skills, it’s possible to design and print out a flyer on your own. But I wouldn’t recommend it, because the presentation is everything and it would be a waste of money to do one poorly. The image is almost as important as the facts about a house on this type of advertising. The UPS stores, Kinko’s and Office Depot or Office Max all have professionals who can print up beautiful color flyers for a set fee. They will need some pictures and will charge to digitalize them if all you have is photos. So the expense here can be that charge, the printing charge, and the service charge. It can really add up, depending on the quality and quantity.
The next expense is purchase of a good sign and sign box for the flyers. These can be purchased through a local FSBO outfit. Most big cities have a local FSBO office where items can be purchased and information given. Pick up any FSBO magazine at the grocery store and it will have ads for the local address of the office. They also have balloons and other eye-catchers to put outside for open houses. You’ll need more than one sign, however, because putting other signs with arrows and announcements of and open house or your FSBO listing at busy street corners will catch attention of people that otherwise wouldn’t see your house sign. Definitely put some flyers on public bulletin boards where available.
Next there’s the expense of advertising in the newspapers and the penny shoppers. The cost of this alone will surprise most people. A tiny five-line ad can cost as much as $50 for a one-time placement in a major Sunday daily newspaper. And marketing is not a one-time affair. Repetition is the key. Advertise every single Sunday, at a minimum, if you expect to get appointments. That’s when most people look. Always list the price to screen people out who couldn’t possibly pay anywhere near the price you want. The newspaper want ad department account manager will help you with abbreviations and wording. The less expensive penny shoppers or weekly newspapers are sometimes good advertising vehicles. Just make sure that wherever the advertising goes has a heavy readership.
Last comes the expense of open houses and all that they involve. Never have an open house unless everything looks perfect. That means really cleaning up the yard for the best presentation. This would be and expense even with an agent, but you’ll be making decisions without an agent’s advice, so be sure to do what’s effective. If it’s necessary to hire professionals to clean the house, do it. If it’s necessary to hire a yard service to mow, mulch, edge or clean up, do that too. People see the front of a house when they come to look, and it should be as pretty as possible. Buy some annuals and maybe a couple of hanging baskets with plants or flowers and put them out. Buy some flowers to put in vases in a couple of rooms too. Make sure the air smells clean without being heavy with a popouri that is sickening sweet. Cook some cookies if that’s your style–anything to make people feel welcome and like they’re guests. Have plenty of flyers on a foyer or dining room table for people to take home with them so they can remember details and call you later for a private showing appointment with a spouse or family members.
These are the absolute necessary expenses in any FSBO plan. Omit any of them and there will be little hope of selling a house in a decent amount of time. Realize that these are up-front expenses and that, unlike the commission an agent gets when the house is sold, they do not guarantee a sale. While an agent swallows most of these expenses up front, you will be swallowing them yourself.